Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

As easy as …

As easy as …

A fun simile to sum up wiping out your enemies with ease and efficiency.For a while he was able to dispose of them with the ease of a marksman shooting plastic ducks at a fairground.For other examples of Winder wit, see our celebration of his earlier book,...

Alert to danger

Alert to danger

This made me laugh out loud when reading Simon Winder's Danubia late one night. Parents ever-so-delicately trying to inveigle their children into the joys of Culture, and getting a visceral reaction.  I love the 'threatened cats' simile. We would light-heartedly bring...

Breathing on a crystal

Breathing on a crystal

A limpid simile to describe a lovely human being. Maggie is simple and direct, but her innate charm and beauty cause considerable complexity of feeling among others. And let's not breathe on the crystal that lets the light through, we need it. 'To ask her to be less...

Looking good

Looking good

The poor old boy, pallid and wan, in stark and merciless juxtaposition to the ruddy picture of health and well-being, Sir James.  'Skinned over for the occasion', beat that. 'Really, by the side of Sir James, he looks like a death's head skinned over for the...

Mental shallows

Mental shallows

A splendid simile for a shallow-minded person, and I loved the 'nethermost sediment', in which murk turbid calculations are taking place as to whether her dying brother could possibly leave his wealth to any but his blood relations. He keeps the whole lot of them...

Great grassy hills

Great grassy hills

A beautiful description of a large-hearted calming character, who has a benign influence on those around him. We need more Cadwalladers around, quieting 'irritated egoism' and making it even a little ashamed of itself. 'Mr Cadwallader was a large man, with full lips...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

Like a wound…

A stunningly original depiction of the pink streaks of dawn resembling a sky-wound. 

'... as the dawn like a wound in the sky welled into her consciousness...'

...

The backward bin

John Keats' letters are full of wry humour and playfulness, interwoven with a rage to live and frustration and despair at the TB which killed him within a few years.

...

Stalled

Next time you feel stalled or blocked, think of it as a moment of suspension in a changeless sky, reassuring yourself that even the most changeless skies change sooner or later. ‘I felt...

As open as …

A limpid simile for being open and transparent. If only more people were like Maggie Tulliver, although it can be said that her openness is not without difficulty for her.

...

Training

Yet no amount of impeccable espaliering constrained her niece’s spirit.

‘Was determined to train her niece as impeccably as a gardener espaliering a fruit tree.’

See also the bestellar review of...

Reading as a meandering canoe

This is a beautiful metaphor for a boy discovering the magic of reading and writing, both of which were forbidden to him.

‘With his index finger, he roamed again and...

Wind like liquid glass

An astonishingly limpid description of the clarity a wind pours over a landscape.

'For two days and two nights the frosty vapour lay over the Burrows, and then came a...

Of gander and falcon

A surprising juxtaposition of birds to convey a contrast.

'... the contrast could not be much greater between a sleek gander and a fierce falcon.'

 

Source: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre...

Like a housemaid’s fancies

A delightful way to convey disorderly thoughts, and I like that 'languishing and ogling'.

'... she could scarcely keep her ideas in order.  They were languishing and ogling like a...

Music in the inside room

One of the most touching aspects of this novel is the young girl Mick’s reaction to music she has never heard before, Beethoven.  She can barely pronounce his name, but...

How many lifetimes does it take to learn the facts of life?  

(And how long do you have to live to recover from them…?) 

Is it fact that helps us recover – or is it metaphor?  

Source: Molly Peacock,The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 63 – click here for the bestellar review of this glorious book.

The thinker, with his metaphors, will illuminate the external world through intangible ideas that for him are intimate and immediate.   

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 6

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